Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

David Cameron attempts to defend 'squalid' deal with Saudi Arabia in excruciating interview with Jon Snow

Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, 17, faces the death penalty for engaging in pro-democracy demonstrations during the Arab Spring

Rose Troup Buchanan
Wednesday 07 October 2015 07:30 BST
Cameron repeatedly failed to answer the question during the interview
Cameron repeatedly failed to answer the question during the interview (Channel 4, via YouTube)

David Cameron has repeatedly refused to explain why the British government agreed to a “squalid” deal with Saudi Arabia, as the country prepares to behead and crucify a teenager for engaging in pro-democracy protests during the Arab Spring.

In an excruciating interview with Channel 4’s Jon Snow, the Prime Minister floundered for a response when questioned on the recently exposed secret deal with the Saudis to allow both nations’ election to the UN Human Rights Council in 2013.

“This sounds a bit squalid for one of the most human rights abusing regimes on earth,” Mr Snow comments.

The PM claimed he would attempt to personally raise the case of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, a 17-year-old teenager arrested when he was 14 who faces the death penalty, but only if there was an “opportunity” with Saudi authorities.

"We oppose the death penalty anywhere and everywhere in all our international contacts," Mr Cameron added.

Pressure mounts on Saudi Arabia over imminent beheading and crucifixion of alleged protester

Asked three times by Mr Snow why – if Mr Cameron “completely disagreed” with the repressive state over their “punishment routines” as he claimed earlier – the UK had agreed to the deal with the Saudi government the PM claimed: “Well, I’ve answered the question.”

“Well, that isn’t an answer is it? I mean we have done a horrid deal,” Mr Snow responds.

Finally, the Conservative leader claimed it was because the British government has “a relationship with Saudi Arabia.”

“It’s because we receive from them important intelligence and security information that keeps us safe," Mr Cameron said.

"The reason we have the relationship is our own national security. There was one occasion since I’ve been prime minister where a bomb that would have potentially blown up over Britain was stopped because of intelligence we got from Saudi Arabia.”

“Of course it would be easier for me to come on your programme and say: ‘I’m not having anything to do with these people, it’s all terribly difficult etcetera etcetera.’ For me, Britain’s national security and our people’s security comes first,” he added.

Wikileaks released documents this week purporting to show the UK and Saudi Arabia supported each nation’s election the UN Human Rights Council in 2013. Both countries were later elected to the 47-member council until 2016.

Human rights organisation have decried Saudi authorities decision to kill Mr al-Nimr, with Amnesty International describing the teenager’s trial as unfair and “deeply flawed.”

David Cameron's most awkward interviews

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in